Ole Miss edged out a series win over the LSU Tigers on Saturday behind two three-run home runs and a strong pitching performance from Will Ethridge. The Rebels came from behind twice in the 9-8 win in front of a crowd of 12,152, which set a new school record. Ole Miss assistant coach Mike Clement credited the record-setting crowd for its role in the comeback win.
“I’ve been here four years now, and it never gets old,” Clement said. “Usually, when you’re at a place for a little while, it starts to become normal. This is not normal, and I hope people here understand that. This is a college football atmosphere in a college baseball stadium, and it’s second-to-none.”
More than 12,000 attendees were present for the offensive slugfest that was Saturday’s rubber match.
LSU struck first with one run in the second inning before Ole Miss pushed across four of its own in the bottom half, including a three-run shot from Chase Cockrell. In the top of the third, however, LSU scored six runs and chased Ole Miss starter James McArthur and Max Cioffi before Ethridge came in and escaped the frame.
“I just had to go out there and do my job,” Ethridge said. “We had to put up zeros really fast and try to give our offense the best chance to go out there and put up some runs. I just wanted to go out there and make some pitches and get some outs.”
After the teams combined for 11 runs in the second and third innings, neither team scored again until the bottom of the seventh inning. The Ole Miss coaching staff took notice of Ethridge’s outing, in which he went 5.2 innings and only allowed one run.
“[Ethridge was] arguably the most important and valuable guy in this game,” Clement said. “We can’t win that game if we don’t put up a bunch of zeros after they put up the six-spot, and he did.”
After scoring four runs in the second inning, Ole Miss did not score again until the seventh when back-to-back doubles, a single, an LSU error and a three-run home run by Thomas Dillard gave the Rebels the lead.
“That’s one of the things you dream of as a little kid,” Dillard said. “A 3-2 count, two people on base and put your team ahead. To hear that and actually see it actually happen is just one of the things I don’t think I’ll ever forget.”
Dillard had a rough series before breaking through with the go-ahead home run, going 0-6 in Thursday’s and Friday’s games. Dillard claims, however, that his slow start in the series did not shake his confidence.
“Baseball is one of those games,” Dillard said. “You’re always going to have one more at-bat.”
After the big seventh inning and a scoreless eighth, Will Ethridge was pulled during the ninth after allowing two Tigers to reach base to start the frame. Caracci walked two and allowed one run, but left the bases loaded and earned the save, his eighth on the year.
With the series win, Ole Miss remains undefeated in series at Swayze Field and stays in the national seed conversation for the NCAA tournament. Ethridge (2-1) was credited with the win and Gilbert (3-4) the loss.
Next week, the Rebels will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday before returning to SEC play with a trip to Columbia, South Carolina, to take on the Gamecocks.